Northern Ireland’s first abortion clinic to open next week

And everyone is thrilled! Just kidding, there’s been a huge outcry in the heavily Catholic country.

The clinic will be run by Marie Stopes International, and will offer a range of other reproductive health services (which is a bummer, because “abortion mill” is so much easier to say than “abortion and other reproductive health services mill”).

Bernadette Smith, of an organization called Precious Life, is absolutely outraged. “I am absolutely outraged. An organisation which is making profits from the death of unborn children is not welcome in Northern Ireland.” Smith called for more crisis pregnancy centres, which she claims has helped bring down the rate of abortion and the rate of women travelling to England to obtain terminations.

The medical director at Maries Stopes International, Dr. Nancy Franklin, is prepared for push-back, and that despite the objections of some, Irish women need the clinic:

We know there will be opposition but we also hope there will be some support from the people of Northern Ireland. We think this is a positive move and we believe there is a need.

Many women from Northern Ireland travel to England for terminations every year. We also know of woman who are unable to make that journey. If we can provide, in the right circumstances, for those women who meet the criteria, this is the right thing to do.

But, the location of the clinic has not yet been revealed for fears of pickets and protests. It won’t take anti-choicers long to figure it out, and uh, women are going to need to know where they can go for reproductive healthcare, so I’m sure Marie Stopes has additional strategies for protecting patients and practitioners.

Abortion is only legal in Northern Ireland if the woman’s life is in danger, or if the pregnancy will do permanent or long term damage to her physical or mental health.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • qob

    This is missing some context.

    Northern Ireland is not “heavily Catholic”: there is a Protestant majority, though more younger Catholics than not. The Republic of Ireland, however, has 84% of the population identifying as Catholic (as of 2011).

    Abortion is legally heavily restricted, in practice almost impossible to obtain, in both places, but Northern Ireland is governed by different laws as it’s part of the UK. The UK 1967 Abortion Act doesn’t apply there, and abortion reform is not supported by either major political+religious grouping.

    The Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast will only be offering medical abortions up to 9 weeks’ gestation using the very limited criteria you mention, and costing £450 (i.e.: not available on the NHS as it is elsewhere in the UK).

    • Rachel Davis

      Thank you for the clarification, qob! If nothing else, the Marie Stopes clinic is a step in the right direction for democracy. :)

      • qob

        Indeed. I’m glad it’s opening, don’t get me wrong! But I don’t think it’s going to make a difference for the majority of women in Ireland (North and in the Republic) – we need legislative change for that. The existing laws in both jurisdictions are just too draconian.

        • Rachel Davis

          I agree, qob, that legislation can hopefully bring about change. I say hopefully because just look at the backlash that has been going on in the US by states trying to rebuke or limit Roe v. Wade. From the attacks on Planned Parenthood (who do so many other health/LGBTQ services for men and women beside from abortion) to the global gag rule to refusal clauses. There are even the “trigger” bans that would virtually revoke abortion entirely in some states if Roe v. Wade was ever made unconstitutional! Legislation can bring change, but the real protectors of reproductive liberties and choice are people talking, not politicians. Hopefully the N. Ireland clinic will bring about the much needed dialogue!